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Review of Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam

Boots on the Ground: America’s War in Vietnam
by Elizabeth Partridge
Middle School, High School    Viking    212 pp.    g
4/18    978-0-670-78506-3    $22.99
e-book ed.  978-0-425-29178-8    $11.99

The Vietnam War was a time of virulent political divisiveness, profound cultural upheaval, and horrific events. It can be challenging to understand, especially for young people born decades afterward, but Partridge unpacks this turbulent time with clarity and compassion. Employing a unique and powerfully moving structure that sends readers geographically back and forth between America and Vietnam over a twenty-year time period, she centers each chapter on an individual affected by the conflict. Partridge opens with the story of American military advisor Mike Horan, who was “in country” from May 1962 to June 1963. After giving readers a sense of Horan’s troubled early life, Partridge follows him into the armed forces and then Vietnam, slipping in just the right amount of historical detail as she describes his experience of jungle combat. The next chapter focuses on President Kennedy as he grapples with whether or not to increase American involvement in Vietnam. The rest of the book maintains this close, immediate intimacy, with chapters featuring Presidents Johnson and Nixon; Martin Luther King Jr.; antiwar entertainer Country Joe McDonald; and Vietnam Memorial architect Maya Lin alternating with those telling the often wrenching personal stories of the eight people — seven veterans and one 
Vietnamese refugee — Partridge interviewed. The ample direct quotes garnered from interviews and carefully researched historical details, along with spectacular photographs (some full-page images and double-page spreads), all bring the war close for readers. The back matter provides more about each interviewee and includes copious source notes, a bibliography, and an index. This indispensable volume brings a wise and humane lens to a confused and brutal conflict.

From the March/April 2018 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

About Monica Edinger

Monica Edinger, a fourth-grade teacher at the Dalton School in New York City, blogs at Educating Alice and the Huffington Post. She is the author of Africa Is My Home: A Child of the Amistad (Candlewick), illustrated by Robert Byrd.

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